My mother would have the television on with the sound off while every radio in the house was tuned to the commentary and if a six was hit or a wicket fell, she would hurry to the front room to watch the replay in pictures. My father enjoyed live cricket from Australia - usually atop a ladder in the middle of the night as he worked his way endlessly around the house painting the windows while wearing a headtorch.
I first started to realise its true value in the days before all-day Sunday drinking. Him Outdoors would take me to the local cricket club where we could lounge on a grassy bank all afternoon and decadently drink cider. This was the start of my conversion. It continued through local league, county cricket and international tests, culminating in the 2005 Ashes Series.
The roles were reversed as I watched live cricket from England through the wee hours of the New Zealand night biting my fingernails to the quick while watching some of the finest cricketers perform outstanding feats with bat and ball. And we won, which helped. I was hooked.
I am not a nerdy stat geek by any means. I remember moments and personalities rather than numbers and records. Of course there are now several variants on the game - the ODIs and the 20/20s - but it's still the tests that really excite me, and it's still the ones between England and Australia that I will willingly waste a whole week watching.
5 Things I Love About Cricket:
- It's an entirely legitimate waste of time. Tell someone you spent five days lying on a sofa and they will think you are an invalid or a sloth; tell someone you spent five days watching cricket and they will at worst think you are obsessive. I get it now, mum and dad; all is forgiven.
- Tradition - from the village green to the pitch at Lords, there is something comforting and familiar about all that history and all that sport being played to specific rules. I still don't understand at least half of said rules, but somehow this doesn't seem to hamper my enjoyment one jot!
- The commentary - those guys (and sadly, as yet, there are no women in the commentary box) know what they're talking about, and most of them say it very entertainingly. Even more amusing are the times when they get distracted by someone's haircut or a nice piece of fruit cake.
- The ebb and flow - when I was young and ignorant I used to be very frustrated by the fact that no one could definitively answer the question, 'who's winning?'. Now that I'm older (although I make no claim to be less ignorant) I love the fluidity of the game, revelling in the way the upper hand is often perceived rather than qualified. I don't even mind when it all ends in a draw.